What the Puck: Star Québecois strikers prove elusive for Canadians

The last illustrious francophone Habs skaters were Pierre Turgeon and Vincent Damphousse in the mid-1990s.


Remember all that talk about Patrice Bergeron possibly becoming a Hab? Well, it’s not happening.

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On Monday, Bergeron, one of the biggest two-way centers of his generation, re-signed a team-friendly deal with the Boston Bruins for one year at $2.5 million, with another possible $2.5 million in incentives. .

When last season ended, there was speculation that Bergeron, an unrestricted free agent, might sign with CH. On NBC Sports in May, former NHL player Tony Amonte said he heard Bergeron was looking closely at playing in Montreal. But Bergeron quickly shot down those rumors.

Remember all the talk about how maybe, just maybe, Quebecois star winger Jonathan Huberdeau, who had just been traded from the Florida Panthers to the Calgary Flames, was going to sign with Montreal when he was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent? the next summer? Well, it’s not happening either.

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That was before Huberdeau, who tied for second overall in points (115) in the NHL last season, signed the most lucrative contract in Flames history, an eight-year, $84 million extension.

It was then speculated that Pierre-Luc Dubois would be traded to the Canadiens from the Winnipeg Jets. It was rumored that he was not happy with the ‘Peg and his agent, Pat Brisson, made public comments suggesting that Dubois would like to play in Montreal.

The conversation escalated when Dubois showed up at the Bell Center for the draft, with many people saying that Habs’ general manager, Kent Hughes, had brought him here and that the Habs wanted to cause a stir on draft day by announcing that Dubois would wear bleu-blanc-rouge next season.

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Well, that’s not happening either. In late July, he accepted the Jets’ $6 million, one-year offer and, after signing, said Brisson’s comments had been taken out of context.

You see the pattern. Habs fans and the media talk about the idea of ​​these high-profile Quebec Francophones joining the CH and then it turns out to be just idle talk.

Why is it so difficult for Canadians to get their hands on the best French-speaking Quebecois skaters in their prime? Obviously, that’s something that a lot of the fan base in Quebec would love. But Habs’ management hasn’t been very successful in this department for the last few decades.

Who was the last true Francophone Quebecois star in the Habs who was not a goalkeeper? In my head, you’d have to go back to the mid-1990s, when Pierre Turgeon and Vincent Damphousse used the CH.

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During the summer of 2007, many thought that Daniel Brière, an unrestricted free agent at the time, would sign with Montreal, but he ended up signing an eight-year deal with the Flyers. He eventually made it to Montreal, in 2013, but by then he was a shadow of his former self.

Obviously, former Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin thought he had a big francophone star in Jonathan Drouin but, clearly, he was wrong and that deal, with defenseman Mikhail Sergachev going to Tampa in exchange for Drouin, is widely regarded as Bergevin’s worst exchange. Drouin has been more than disappointing.

During the fall of 2019, after a speech in Montreal, I asked Habs CEO Geoff Molson about the fact that many were clamoring for the team to sign more francophone players.

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“It’s getting harder and harder as we see more and more players from all over the world, with the Finns, the Swedes, the Russians, the Swiss coming into the league,” Molson said at the time. “So there is less room for other countries. Of course, all things being equal, we want Quebecois players on our team and we will keep trying to get them. But if there are fewer Québec players than during another year, it’s not for lack of desire on our part, it’s just that we want to have the best possible team on the ice.”

Of course, they want the best team, but all the Habs coaches are always trying to get local players. Last summer, Bergevin drafted three francophone players and sadly all three (David Savard, Mathieu Perreault and Cédric Paquette) turned out to be not that good. In this year’s draft, many Quebec fans and journalists criticized the management for choosing only one player from Quebec, Miguël Tourigny, 216th overall, in the seventh and final round.

So at this point, the 2022-23 Habs won’t have any high-profile francophone players and may not have many francophone skaters aside from maybe Drouin and Savard.

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